New Zealand mosque shooter changes plea to guilty

The killing spree was the deadliest in New Zealand's modern history, prompting the government to rush through new laws banning most semi-automatic weapons.
Image: Brenton Tarrant
Brenton Tarrant, who was accused of killing 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, changed his plea to guilty on Thursday.Mark Mitchell / Pool via AFP - Getty Images file

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By The Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — One year after killing 51 worshipers at two Christchurch mosques, an Australian white supremacist accused of the slaughter on Thursday changed his plea to guilty.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism. The killing spree was the deadliest in New Zealand's modern history and prompted the government to rush through new laws banning most semi-automatic weapons.

Tarrant was scheduled to go to trial on the charges in June. His change in plea came as a surprise and relief to survivors and relatives of the victims.

A sentencing date has yet to be set. Tarrant faces life imprisonment on the charges.

The plea came at a hastily arranged court hearing at a time that New Zealand was beginning a four-week lockdown to try to combat the new coronavirus. The lockdown meant that Tarrant appeared in the court from his jail cell by video and that only a few people were allowed inside the courtroom.